I wasn’t fully honest with you.
When I shared my story here last year, I was holding something back.
I opened up about my OCD. My retirement from hockey. My successes and my failures. But I left something out. And I justified it in my head because I didn’t want it to dilute my message — or my goal to help people. I told myself it wouldn’t make sense, that it wasn’t necessary. But I was lying to myself. The truth is … man, the truth is simple: I was ashamed. Deeply ashamed. I held it close, scared of what people might think of me.
The truth is, I was an addict.
And when I saw the story in The Boston Globe about Jimmy Hayes’ autopsy, everything that I’d suppressed about my own addiction came flooding into my mind. I’m two-and-a-half years sober — and in a way, I guess, I thought I had beat it. But you never beat it. You just live with it. And what happened to Jimmy … it could have happened to any of us. It could have happened to me.
I texted his dad and his wife, Kristen, the morning that article came out, and I let them know how powerful it was — how brave they were to share what they did. I’ve known Jimmy since I was 16, and he was a great, great person. Everyone cared about him so much. I can’t speak highly enough of the Hayes family. They are all great people. And I know they want to help, just like I do. Because we’re in the middle of a massive opioid and mental health crisis. Those two things are inherently connected. And I believe the first step toward change is honesty and vulnerability.
I let myself down the last time I did this. I won’t do it again.
So this is my truth.
In October 2018, I was lost. And for those of you who didn't read my first story, I can give an extremely quick recap here, because I think it’s important.
I’ve had OCD for as long as I can remember.
It’s a severe case that impacted my life, my hockey career and everything in between. I had these intrusive thoughts that pushed me into dark corners of my mind, where I no longer knew who I was, or what I wanted to be.
And it ultimately led to what came next.
I was with the Colorado Avalanche in 2018, and my OCD had completely taken over my life. It had driven this deep hole inside of me. This void. I didn’t feel normal. I hadn’t felt normal in a long time. When I was around other people — even my friends — I couldn’t relate to them. Because I knew their mind wasn’t at war with itself like mine was. Whatever they had, whatever sense of self-worth they felt ... it didn’t exist in me. I would look over people’s heads, or at their shoulders when I spoke to them, because eye contact scared me. I didn’t want to see them, to see how normal they were — to see what I couldn’t be. I felt blessed to have the life I did as an NHL player. I really did. But it isolated me even more. I was Colin, the guy who made it.
I was constantly searching for something to block my pain. To make me feel good. For peace.
I was put onto Ambien when I was just 20, and it became this crutch in my life. I couldn’t sleep without it. And if I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t play like I wanted to. My career — my everything — was tied to this pill. I wouldn’t call it addictive … but it was an introduction to an abusive relationship to a remedy. I was vulnerable, and Ambien instilled in me this idea that, my regular self? The one who tries to go to sleep sober? There’s something wrong with him.